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Published:May 19th, 2012 18:55 EST
NASA Study: Hazardous Asteroids Could Pose Threat to Earth

NASA Study: Hazardous Asteroids Could Pose Threat to Earth

By Ron G Anselm

 

NASA continues the Out of the Box Thinking " studies and research that help make a huge impact on our planet. NASA`s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) recently took a survey of the number of potentially hazardous asteroids that may be lurking in and around Earth`s atmosphere.

The survey was mostly focused on the size, shape and amount of these asteroids that could eventually crash and burn head on into our planet. Asteroids come in all different shapes and sizes from the smallest peas size asteroid to Asteroids so big they make your house look like an ant hill these asteroids do pose a threat to the safety of us as we truck along in our daily lives.

Think of it this way, if you ever drop an object no matter how big it may be from say a second floor apartment balcony which may only be about twenty to thirty feet up from the ground. You notice that small object picks up a lot of speed and makes a big impact (pound for pound) when it hits the ground.

Imagine an object falling thousands of feet above earth`s atmosphere the size of a small truck falling faster than a speeding comet and on a direct path to nowhere as it weaves in and out of entering earth`s atmosphere, losing a little size as the hot gases burn and chip away at its outer lining.

Then the asteroid is in open air space as open as Walter Payton breaking though the Chicago Bears front foursome`s offensive lineas he takes the hand off, delays a step for a second as his left guard clears the way by taking out the defensive charging linebackerand opens a small hole the size of a human body as Walter sprints through it and in the open field for the touchdown as he did so many times in the 1970s era of the NFL.

We all know this is just a vivid example of the same scenario the asteroid falling to earth would take. As it makes it through the atmosphere it would pick up speed without anything getting in its way before it fell to earth and collided with the ground somewhere around the world or even in your own backyard.

This is the point NASA is trying to study with so many asteroids floating around our planet and more and more new asteroids being I guess you could say being born " our there as lots and lotsof them collide with one another like a bumper car ride at Disneyland and shatter like ice crystal impacting the ground each time an asteroid collides with another asteroid more and more little asteroids multiply creating a sea of floating rocks in space.

When you have many floating rocks hovering around our planet NASA becomes concerned about the possibility of the potential hazards that could happen if these asteroid collide with earth. This to me is really a good study to try to almost account for every asteroid out there that may pose a potential threat to our planet.

These asteroids that are in orbit around Earth are known as PHA`s (Potentially Hazardous Asteroids) and are at a very close distance of around five-million miles to our atmosphere. To me five-million miles is an eternity away but to NASA it`s a distance of just down the block " to the close proximity of our planet so it raises concern.

This study by NASA comes from the asteroid hunting portion of what is called the NEOWISE mission which is a submission of the NASA WISE mission. NASA studies about one-hundred and seven PHA`s to make predictions of the total population of the PHA`s out there.

So far as the study is still ongoing, NASA is estimating there are about 4,700 PHAs out there that pose a potential threat and out of those 4,700 PHA`s there are about 1,500 that are around 330 feet in diameter or larger. That`s about the size of a large sail boat or luxury liner.

Lindley Johnson who is the program Executive for the Near-Earth Object Observation Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington said, But we`ve many more to find (referring to the rogue PHA`s out there) and it will take a concerted effort during the next couple of decades to find all of them that could do serious damage or be a mission destination in the future. " (Johnson, 2012)

So, NASA plans to keep investing time and effort to finding all these hazardous asteroids. As NASA continues finding out new information about the PHA`s; they have discovered that out of the total number of PHA`s out there over half of them are in what is known as the Lower Inclination " orbit which means they are in more alignment with the plane of the Earth`s orbit.

These asteroids that are in the Lower Inclination of earth`s orbit are the ones that NASA is focusing more time and study on because they are the ones that are causing a potential hazardous threat to us. These are also the asteroids that are the easiest to reach for future missions by NASA either on a human or robotic nature.

NASA is not just liming the NEOWISE study of these asteroids to the nature of the distance to earth but also expanding the study to the composition of the low inclination asteroids. They have discovered so far that these asteroids are brighter or shiner which means they are more likely made of a stonier material like granite or a metallic substance.

This type of information is very important because depending on what these potential hazardous asteroids are made of will give NASA more insight on how fast these may burn up if they do enter our atmosphere. These may turn out to be the asteroids NASA sort of leaves alone because if they do enter our atmosphere they would more than likely burn up and not make it to the ground. The other asteroids out there that are not as shiny that may be made of other materials would tend to be the ones NASA will need to focus on.

So, the science side of NASA keeps developing new and innovative studies that will help make our planet safer from potentially hazardous asteroids and space junk. Maybe an idea for NASA to consider would be to use the potentially hazardous asteroids as target practice.

If any of you remember the era of arcade games back in the 1970s than you would probably remember the one called Asteroids " where you had a missile silo taking out asteroids plummeting to earth. Since I was an arcade rat (hung out at arcades 24/7) back then when I wasn`t playing sports, I figured out many strategies to this popular game and even took the high score to new levels. It was simple; you have a long-range missile silo capable of hitting targets at long-range distances with pinpoint accuracy.

Today, this comes as second nature with our high-efficiency weapon systems that could pick off a flea sitting on the head of a dog at hundreds of miles and not even harm a hair on the dog as the flea becomes a ghost.

I think with this technology if any of these potentially hazardous asteroids even think about coming into our house (our house in this case being our atmosphere) they won`t even stand a chance making it to the ground as suddenly like in the old game Asteroids " they try to enter our atmosphere, our missiles lock and load and then zero in on the target and with a burst of energy and force of power; BAM! The asteroid is hit by say a Tomahawk missile and shattered into many little pieces and reduced to nothing more than a pile of dust. BOOYAH!

Reference:

Clavin, W., (2012) JPL, Pasadena, California, NASA Survey Counts Potentially Hazardous Asteroids, (www.nasa.gov/wise) the quote used in my article by Lindley Johnson is quoted and cited from this article. Retrieved 2012.